South Dakota Assessment Letter

June 29, 2006

The Honorable Rick Melmer
Secretary of Education
South Dakota Department of Education
700 Governors Drive
Pierre, South Dakota 57501-2291

Dear Secretary Melmer:

Thank you for your participation in the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) standards and assessment peer review process under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). I appreciate the efforts required to prepare for the peer review. As you know, with the implementation of NCLB’s accountability provisions, each school, district, and State is held accountable for making adequate yearly progress (AYP) towards having all students proficient by 2013-14. An assessment system that produces valid and reliable results is fundamental to a State’s accountability system.

I am writing to follow up on the letter that was sent to you on May 23, 2006. In that letter we presented the results of the peer review of the South Dakota standards and assessment system and detailed the additional evidence necessary for South Dakota to meet the statutory and regulatory requirements of Section 1111(b)(1) and (3) of the ESEA. The need for the remaining outstanding evidence, as listed in the enclosure to this letter, remains.

As you will recall, the Department laid out new approval categories in the letter to the Chief State School Officers on April 24, 2006. These categories better reflect where States collectively are in the process of meeting the statutory standards and assessment requirements and where each State individually stands. Based on these new categories, the current status of the South Dakota standards and assessment system is Approval Pending. This status indicates that South Dakota’s standards and assessment system administered in the 2005-06 school year has three or more fundamental components that are missing or that do not meet the statutory and regulatory requirements, in addition to other outstanding issues that can be addressed more immediately. These deficiencies must be resolved in a timely manner so that the standards and assessment system administered next year meets all requirements. The Department believes that South Dakota can address the outstanding issues by the next administration of its assessment system, that is, by the end of the 2006-07 school year.

South Dakota’s system has a number of fundamental components that warrant the designation of Approval Pending. Specifically, the Department cannot approve South Dakota’s standards and assessment system due to outstanding concerns with technical quality including the validity and reliability of the assessment system and insufficient items to distinguish between various academic achievement levels. In addition, South Dakota must provide documentation pertaining to the process used to establish rigor for its academic content standards and must develop a plan to resolve identified gaps in the alignment of its assessments with the State’s academic content and achievement standards. Please refer to the enclosure for a detailed list of the evidence South Dakota must submit to meet the requirements for an approved standards and assessment system.

Accordingly, South Dakota is placed under Mandatory Oversight, pursuant to 34 C.F.R. §80.12. Under this status, there will be specific conditions placed on South Dakota’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A grant award. South Dakota must provide, not later than 25 business days from receipt of this letter, a plan and detailed timeline for how it will meet the remaining requirements to come into full compliance by the end of the 2006-07 school year. Beginning in September 2006, South Dakota must also provide bi-monthly reports on its progress implementing the plan.

Due to the number of outstanding items that South Dakota needs to complete to come into compliance with NCLB, the Department intends to withhold 10 percent of the State’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, totaling $38,864, pursuant to Section 1111(g)(2) of the ESEA. South Dakota has the opportunity, within 20 business days of receipt of this letter, to show cause in writing why we should not withhold these funds. If South Dakota cannot show cause, the Department will withhold 10 percent of South Dakota’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds, which will then revert to local educational agencies in South Dakota. Moreover, if, at any time, South Dakota does not meet the timeline set forth in its plan, the Department will initiate proceedings to withhold an additional 10 percent of the State’s fiscal year 2006 Title I, Part A administrative funds.

I know you are anxious to receive full approval of your standards and assessment system and we are committed to helping you get there. Toward that end, let me reiterate my earlier offer of technical assistance. We remain available to assist you however necessary to ensure you administer a fully approved standards and assessment system. We will schedule an additional peer review when you have evidence available to further evaluate your system. If you have any questions or would like to request reconsideration of the conditions, please do not hesitate to call Abigail Potts ( or Valeria Ford ( of my staff.


Henry L. Johnson

cc: Governor Mike Rounds
Diane Lowery



  1. Documentation pertaining to the process used to establish rigor for the academic content standards such as the analysis and results from the external alignment study to include breadth and depth scheduled to take place in April 2006.


  1. Evidence of Board adoption of the cut scores for the alternate assessments when this is completed in spring 2006.
  2. Involvement of a broad range of stakeholders including more teachers representing all grades.
  3. Steps taken to ensure that the same set of achievement standards are used to measure the subject mastery of LEP students in reading, mathematics, and science.
  4. Cut scores for the revised mathematics tests.
  5. June 2005 Buros final report regarding setting the revised reading cut scores.


  1. Reliability studies for the scores of student subgroups.
  2. Results of studies of student accommodations that examine the degree to which the IEP and the student accommodations are congruent, or a concrete plan and timeline for examining the extent to which the IEP and other student accommodations on assessments are congruent.
  3. Plan to develop aligned, parallel forms of the South Dakota assessments.
  4. Detailed report of the bias committee findings.


  1. A plan with timelines to resolve all identified deficiencies related to alignment of the State’s assessments with its academic content and student achievement standards.
  2. Interpretative analyses/comments and use of results of alignment studies related to the new alternate assessments.


  1. Explanations for both the earlier identified data inconsistencies as well as the newly identified ones.
  2. Accounting for the large number of SWDs and LEP students who do not appear to be participating in State assessments consistent with Title I requirements.
  3. Steps taken to ensure the participation of all students in statewide assessments.
  4. Review of data reports and steps taken to ensure the highest level of data consistency and accuracy.

Return to state-by-state listing